10 Ways To Ease the LSS/HPO Transition

1. Be sure everyone understands business processes — their characteristics, management, variation and improvement. At the start of the LSS/HPO transformation there is often widespread misunderstanding at all levels about what business processes are and why it is important to improve and manage them. Leaders need to ensure that process training occurs swiftly and is reinforced by senior management words and actions.

2. Develop and frequently communicate the "burning platform" for change. Leaders need to clearly articulate the logical and emotional reasons for change — sometimes called a burning platform — to the workforce at least five times in a variety of different communication modes, such as town hall meetings, newsletters, one-on-one conversations and the organization's intranet.

3. Develop organizational restructuring guidelines and boundaries early in the transformation. There are two benefits to developing these early. First, it provides information early about what can be redesigned and what can't be redesigned to people who will be redesigning their current organization structure into one of high- performing teams (HPTs). Second, it allows time for feedback and timely modifications if required prior to lower levels' beginning the redesign efforts.

4. Develop one integrated workplan for all key elements of the change effort. Because different groups are initially involved in efforts such as process improvement team meetings, change management, organizational restructuring, training and status review meetings, there are often separate workplans for each of these efforts. Multiple workplans result in delays, redundant work, overloading of key individuals and coordination problems. One workplan needs to incorporate all the different improvement, restructuring and change efforts.

5. Assign responsibility for the tactical elements of the transformation. While it's true that top leaders need to be visible and actively supporting the transformation, they cannot be responsible for day-to-day transformation activities, scheduling of resources, transformation logistics and coordination of key people's schedules. There needs to be either one person — or a team of people (if the organization is ready to embrace the emerging concepts of teams and collective responsibility) — who formally assume these responsibilities and are held accountable for their timely execution. There is a considerable amount of tactical work, so if one person is charged with this overall "project management" role, there should be a dedicated administrative team to help.

6. Develop and publicize a diagram and descriptions of the interrelationships of key groups in the transformation. During the transformation it will seem like there are a lot of groups running around the organization that never existed before. There are. Early on it is important for the workforce to know what groups are involved in transformation and improvement activities, what the functions of the group are and how the groups are interrelated. The book offers more information on this.

7. Design for quick successes. Quick successes provide funding for future efforts, prove that the concepts can work in the organization and generate energy based on employees' success at deploying new tools and methods.

8. People at middle and lower levels can take on more responsibility than upper-level leaders might initially think, so relocate decisions and responsibilities accordingly. Leaders need to keep this point in mind in the redesign sessions and the subsequent goal negotiation sessions with the team's manager.

9. Don't neglect to host, but don't exclusively focus on large group events as a vehicle for change. Large group gatherings such as town hall meetings, participative planning sessions and redesign workshops are highly visible events and can create a lot of energy. Unfortunately, they are often viewed as the only time that change is considered and people conclude the session saying, "Well, that was a great event, now it's time to get back to our real work." The real job of change goes on during the events and between them also and everyone needs to understand this point.

10. Realize that if you can successfully manage the common transition questions that people have in their heads, you can accelerate the workforce's wanting to participate in the new environment. At the start of an LSS/HPO transformation, the general rule of thumb for supporters holds true; that is: 20 percent will actively support the change; 20 percent will be actively against it and oppose it overtly or covertly; and 60 percent will be on the fence. Top leaders and change agents need to quickly and systematically focus on moving that 60 percent to the side of the proposed transformation.

Excerpted from Integrating Lean Six Sigma and High-Performance Organizations: Leading the Charge on Dramatic, Rapid and Sustainable Improvement (Pfeiffer/A Wiley Imprint, 2004, ISBN: 0-7879-6973-7, $45), by Tom Devane.

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